Human Rights defenders in Vietnam have been facing a diverse range of attacks, including but not limited to, arbitrary and incommunicado detention, intimidation, house arrest, threats and judicial harassment. State actors have often been the perpetrators of violence against HRDs, which is almost always carried out without impunity. HRDs who work on citizen participation, the freedom of expression and environment rights face the most amount of threats and harassment in the hands of the state.
Right to free assembly and association, though enshrined in Article 25 of the 1959 Vietnam Constitution, has often been infringed when it comes to those expressing dissent or dissatisfaction with the State. HRDs engaging in free speech online and in public fora, including bloggers, writers, journalists, and documentary film makers, have been subjected to judicial proceedings. Criminal sentences are frequently very long. In the trials of eight Brotherhood for Democracy members in April 2018, the cumulative sentences amounted to 86 years’ imprisonment and 25 years’ probation.
In more recent months, authorities in a number of provinces have arrested local Facebookers for their online posts and live streams. HRDs, journalists and human rights organisations are subject to frequent online attacks and hacking attempts on their websites and Facebook pages. Such attacks are particularly damaging to the work of defenders in Vietnam, given Facebook’s status as one of the predominant platforms for social communication and information-sharing. The Cyber Security Law of 2018 and the amended penal code of 2015 has been extensively used to stifle any online discourse that the government deems offensive, defamatory or threatening. Such provisions have enabled a political regime already adept at suppressing HRD voices to rapidly expand their capacities for monitoring HRD communication, stifling their voice, and persecuting their speech. Further, many of the provisions under such laws are punishable by long prison sentences, life imprisonment and even death.